Theatre review: Bassam, Everyman, Cork

***

This one-man show is based on the true story of Bassam Aramin, a Palestinian peace activist, whose ten-year-old daughter Abir, was killed by an Israeli soldier in 2007.

Bassam, who served seven years in jail for his activities in the Palestinian resistance movement, co-founded Combatants for Peace in 2005, a non-violent organisation of former Israeli and Palestinians combatants.

Fadl Mustapha, a Palestinian actor, refugee and activist, who lives in Ireland, plays Bassam, a man who wants justice for his daughter but resolutely refuses to go the violent route. The play itself is a Palestinian/Israeli collaboration whose author, Idan Meir, is an Israeli writer and peace activist also living in Ireland.

The audience is introduced to Bassam who is packing a suitcase prior to travelling to collect a major peace award. On a table is a photograph of his murdered daughter. There is much poignancy when Bassam holds up Abir’s school bag. It contains candy that she didn’t get the chance to eat.

But there is something oddly dispassionate about Mustapha’s performance. There is anger towards his son who wants bloody vengeance for his sister’s death. There is despair that Abir’s murder has destroyed the family, with Bassam’s wife seemingly lost to the world. However, Mustapha sometimes seems to be automatically switching into different moods rather than organically revealing his feelings including his conflict about receiving a prize “for not making a fuss”.

Bassam’s dreams are haunted by his “little angel”. He says that “the murderer of my daughter can be the saviour of my son”. All he wants is the truth about what happened and a willingness to deal with it through peaceful means.

After the play, a Q&A session took place in the Everyman. This reviewer asked Meir about his use of the ‘theatre of the oppressed’ approach which aims to promote social and political change. He thinks it’s “a brilliant tool” and has used it on audiences made up of Israelis and Palestinians. Meir says the interactive method results in audiences wanting to change reality. If only theatre could put an end to the raging Middle East battle zones.


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